Final Fantasy XIV's Expanded Free Trial Fixes One of the Game's Biggest Stumbling Blocks

Games Features Final Fantasy XIV
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<i>Final Fantasy XIV</i>'s Expanded Free Trial Fixes One of the Game's Biggest Stumbling Blocks

Final Fantasy XIV is an enchanting world full of genuine, personalized adventure, and it only took four incarnations as a cat girl archer for me to realize that.

Final Fantasy XIV has been recommended to me time after time by so many different people, especially for its story. The only caveat they would give is that it takes a decent amount of hours for that story to pick up. Since I’ll do anything for a solid narrative, I was down to slog through mediocre filler, but the original demo didn’t even really give me a chance to do that. For a really long time, the game had a two week time limit and a level cap of 35, which was hardly enough to scratch the surface of that narrative or get a feel for the class I just unlocked at level 30. A free trial should let you test the game enough to get a feel for how it really plays, so that you can confidently decide if it’s something you want to spend money on. The Final Fantasy XIV trial period didn’t do that at all.

The first three times I tried to play Final Fantasy XIV I barely got anywhere. I named my character T’ina Fey and was aided with eager guidance from online guides and my friends (who were a great help). But all of that ultimately couldn’t stop my fantasy from fading away due to me getting overwhelmed by the boatload of systems I needed to understand within that restrictive, timed free trial I was playing. It had me worrying about ideal optimization and itemization, comprehending a busy and multi-layered HUD, and most importantly getting the most out of my 14-day timed free trial.

It was a blatantly crummy relationship with a videogame off the top; play felt like more of a chore than a source of amusement, which should never happen. So I quit.

Over the years, though, the game has gotten more flexible with its trial. And Final Fantasy XIV’s most recent 5.3 Reflections in Crystal patch on August 11 made it the perfect entry experience for both new players and players like me, who have tried and dropped it multiple times. The 5.3 Reflections in Crystal patch lets players pick any race and class they’d like, streamlines early fetch quests, and includes Heavensward, the game’s full first expansion pack.

Massively multiplayer online role-playing games offer so many different paths of play, and Final Fantasy XIV is no exception. During my first attempts I didn’t mess with any of the non-combat classes because they weren’t important to the main story quest line that I was trying to bulldoze through as fast as possible. Now I finally feel like I can spend time testing the game’s niche styles of play at my own pace, without stressing over proper time optimization. Like a phoenix from the ashes, with the new free trial revamp T’ina Fey came back once again—stronger, better, and faster.This time with no time limit in sight to pin her down, she will save Eorzea and one day become a master fantasy fisherman.

This is the first time that an MMORPG’s routine and loop is clicking with me. I’m digging how expansive the world is and how cheesy this fantasy dialogue can get at points. I’ll slay a giant ladybug and the townspeople will butter me up with some ye olde flattery. It’s hilarious. I can finally fall into the story too, and pay attention without having to speedread against an invisible timer I know is ticking away. The multiplayer is also a nice break from the usual competitive games I play; I love picking up quests while my three inch tall friend “Ikea Meatball” is running around the NPCs in front of me. There are so many interesting players like Door Wedge and people who pull up with glowing, flaming, powerful-looking gear my early level brain can’t even fathom.

I never thought I’d ever be back in Eorzea, but I’m actually really enjoying my time with Final Fantasy XIV this time around. While I was mindlessly lost and walking to the calming background music, I started paying attention to other users who were completing their quests, baking bread, and roleplaying on the street, and I felt something I’d never felt before. I was connected to an ecosystem of players, such an MMORPG-specific feeling of community that I’d never known in my multiplayer experiences. Each server you join is a unique, living digital world powered by the players within it. And every character has their own path and objectives and they’re always intertwining during the dungeons and fates that pop up.

If you were looking for an excuse to give Final Fantasy XIV a try, this is definitely the best time to do so. The current free trial throws away all the stress that comes with time limits and low level caps, and offers your hours upon hours of content for absolutely free. Slowly but surely I’m figuring out the lay of the land, learning landmarks and shortcuts to get around without having to keep my map open at all times. I think I have what it takes to be a successful adventurer in this world. I know one day, if I fight enough squirrels and ladybugs, I will be that cool player with the glowing, flaming, armor that always chills around spawn with a gigantic mount. It took a while for Final Fantasy XIV to truly welcome me in, but I’ve fully embraced it after this new update.

Funké Joseph is a non-binary black writer and artist. Check out their goofs @funkefly.